BARNA's 'REVOLUTION' - A Review
-by Andrew Strom.
2005 has seen the release of two of the most important and
provocative books for the Western church in years. I am referring
to James Rutz's 'MEGASHIFT' and now George Barna's
'REVOLUTION'. Even the titles of these books carry a sense of
the massive shaking and change that are rumbling underground -
waiting to be unleashed on the Western church.
Frankly, I was astonished at Barna's boldness in 'Revolution'. This
is a man who makes his living speaking and writing to the Christian
church in America. Yet here he is talking of 'Revolutionaries' who
are forging a vibrant Christian lifestyle, often totally outside the
usual "church on Sunday" system. He says there are 23 million
of them in America - and he approves of what they are doing!
Shocking stuff for a respected leader with so much at stake. At the
end of the book, Barna tells of sharing it's contents with a couple
of respected pastors - one of whom was fairly open and the other
who roasted Barna with a 2-hour tongue-lashing about why the
"local church is God's Plan A, His chosen vehicle." Welcome to
the future, George! (I hope you have a good retirement plan).
Seriously, this guy has truly laid his reputation and his ministry on the line.
After spending 20 years studying and reporting on the church in
America, you can sense Barna's frustration about the state of things
in this book. His statistics on the spiritual condition of the average
Evangelical church-goer are horrifying to say the least. Little wonder
that Barna has actually found more fervor, more life and more
devotion amongst those that have LEFT than those who remain!
Barna makes a very important distinction at the start of the book
about those who are "backsliders" and those who are 'revolutionaries'.
Both may have left the church, but only one is still actively pursuing
the things of the Kingdom with all their heart.
Barna also makes the following very interesting statements:
"Whether you want to or not, you will have to take a stand in regard
to the Revolution. It is on track to become the most significant
recalibration of the American Christian body in more than a
century.... And if you discover that you are - or want to become -
a Revolutionary, welcome to the fold." [-Page ix]. -From this, are
we to conclude that George himself has actually become one?
And again: "Thankyou for giving me the opportunity to share some
of the challenging and life-transforming realities that have changed
millions of Americans. I am honored and humbled to admit that I
am now counted among that crowd." [-Page x].
Startling as all this seems, the one major drawback I found in the
book was the lack of a real sense of 'DIRECTION' to it all. As
someone who has moved amongst "Out-of-church" Christians now
for almost 20 years, I have found the two most damaging aspects
of this movement to be: (A) Rampant individualism; and (B) The
lack of actual DIRECTION towards true New Testament Christianity.
(-There is a lot of "DESIRE" and a lot of TALK - but rarely do you
see anything actually coming together). God does not want us to
be "Body-less" in the earth. Clearly there has to be a coming-
together of an actual 'Body' at some point. George does not seem
to address any of this in a direct way either, and I think this is
a very serious omission.
That is why Jim Rutz's 'MEGASHIFT' was such an important work.
In it, he too notes that of the 707 million 'Revival'-type believers
around the world today, "Hundreds of millions of these Christians
are simply not associated with the institutional churches at all.
They meet in homes. They meet underground. They meet in caves...."
So he also sees this radical shift away from standard "Sunday-
church" as we have known it. But Megashift does not give the
impression that this IN ITSELF is the vital key to the Revivals that
are occurring. Rather, it is clearly the MIRACLES and the NEW
TESTAMENT LIFESTYLE that are key to this massive Harvest
that is going on.
My feeling is - Yes, it is important to leave behind "churchy religion"
and get out beyond the 4 walls. This will surely help us come into
the Harvest. But we must realize that it is SPIRIT-POWERED
EVANGELISM (ie. out on the streets, preaching with healings and
miracles) that has actually been driving the massive Harvest
overseas. In this we Western Christians seem to be falling far behind.
Can leaving 'Religion' help us come into this? Perhaps, but only if
we seek God for it with all our hearts. Becoming one of Barna's
"Revolutionaries" is just the beginning. It is not the whole answer
and it has not produced a Revival yet. That is why, while I highly
recommend the book 'REVOLUTION', I believe it is essential that
we read it alongside 'MEGASHIFT' - so that we get a truly global
perspective - not just one that focuses on the West. We need to
know how God is moving right around the world. And perhaps
between these two books, we can glean some real answers as to
what exactly needs to be done in our own nations.
These are both incredibly important books. I cannot recommend
them highly enough. And I believe it is amazing timing that they
have come out almost together. God is clearly up to something!
REVOLUTION - by George Barna.
MEGASHIFT - by James Rutz.
[-Both available from Amazon.com and other outlets].
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon